Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thai Governor’s remarks out of touch with reality

There has been heavy fighting just across this peaceful river in recent weeks.

Several sources have been reporting remarks made recently by the Thai Governor of Tak province (where most of the Burmese refugees in Thailand are) these all refer to a report on Alert Net: Thailand wants Myanmar asylum seekers to go home – official

The headline is a touch misleading, since it has always been Thai policy that the refugees return home once there is no fighting and their homes are safe. The refugees wait for that day too. What is new and involves a flagrant disregard for the truth is the claim that the elections in Burma have ended the fighting and removed the need for the refugees to remain. In view of the shelling, mortar fire and repeated gunfire (heard in Mae Sot as well as in smaller Thai towns close to the border) this claim either betrays a total disconnect from reality, or a blatant lie by Govenor Loifah.

Loifah said Myanmar was no longer violent and “we should start considering asking them to return voluntarily”.

But the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR said voluntary returns should only happen if there was no longer any fighting and refugees could sign papers saying they wanted to go back.

“That means Myanmar would have to be welcoming them home and guaranteeing their rights when they go home. UNHCR would need to be able to monitor their safety when they go home. It’s fairly clear that none of these conditions exist right now in the areas these refugees come from,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey.

Loifah said he would be happy to work with the European Union and the UNHCR if they started reducing spending on assistance to the camps to persuade residents to leave.

“Ideally, the province would like to be able to set a deadline for closing these camps but realistically, it’s hard to do so because of international organisations. So it’s likely to drag on,” he added.